Chuck Campion was first exposed to politics as a child, when he campaigned for his grandfather, a representative in the Massachusetts legislature from Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood.
“I went door to door with nominating papers for my grandfather when I was 7 or 8 years old,” he told The Washington Post, “and I remember how shocked I was when one lady said: ‘I can’t sign that. I’m a Republican.’ I had no idea what a Republican was.”
Mr. Campion, who died March 7 at 62, spent his career helping Democrats seek the highest office in the land. He was a political and public affairs adviser who specialized in presidential campaigns, notably those of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and was chairman of the Dewey Square Group, a Boston-based political consulting and lobbying firm that he co-founded 25 years ago.
He turned professional while at the University of Massachusetts, working for Dukakis, then the state’s governor, over summer breaks. By the late 1970s, he was a special assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale.
In an interview Thursday, Mondale referred to Mr. Campion as his “trip director” because he flew with him on Air Force Two and made sure everything went smoothly, down to the details of who had seats on the plane. Mr. Campion later worked on Mondale’s unsuccessful 1984 presidential campaign, serving important roles in New Hampshire, Ohio, New Jersey and Illinois. Mostly, he excelled as an advance man.
“You try to learn what’s going on as soon as you can when you get into a new location,” Mondale said. Mr. Campion “had this uncanny ability to float around a community and come back and tell me what was going on.”
Mr. Campion said that when he went to a new state, he tried not to seem like a presumptuous outsider. When he moved to New Hampshire for Mondale, he told The Post in 1984, “I thought about how I’d feel if somebody from Manchester walked into my family house and said, ‘Hi, I’m here to run West Roxbury.’ I decided I’d ask a lot of advice.”
Mr. Campion was familiar with losses on the presidential campaign trail and spoke candidly about a noted mishap during the 1984 New Hampshire primary. Mondale, the establishment front-runner, left the state in the days leading up to the vote, then lost the primary in an upset to the grass-roots insurgent senator Gary Hart of Colorado. Mondale still won the Democratic nomination before losing in a landslide to incumbent Ronald Reagan that November.
In 2000, Democratic media consultant Robert Shrum was working for presidential candidate Al Gore and sought advice from Mr. Campion, a campaign colleague. Shrum wanted to know what Mr. Campion thought of Gore’s plan to give a speech on global warming in Michigan. “He said if we gave that speech, he might as well just go home,” Shrum recalled in his 2007 book, “No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner.”
At first, Shrum recalled, Gore didn’t listen, but he was later persuaded by his chief environmental adviser to drop the speech idea. Shrum dubbed Mr. Campion “one of the wittiest and bluntest political operatives in the business.”
Charles Michael Campion was born in Boston on Aug. 20, 1955. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977.
Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Heather Pars Campion of Brookline, Mass.; two children, Maxwell Campion of Boston and Courtney Campion of Atlanta; his mother, Mary Richard of Falmouth, Mass.; four sisters; and one brother.
He died at a hospital in Boston of complications from stomach surgery, said his wife.
On Thursday, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) recalled that during his maiden campaign for office in 2012, he had just finished having breakfast with a supporter when the phone rang. It was Mr. Campion, who was not working for the campaign but wanted to make a suggestion.
A friend of the consultant was sitting next to Kennedy at the morning meal and reported how much coffee the candidate seemed to consume in public. Mr. Campion said this conveyed the idea that he was tired, and it might put off supporters and voters.
“From my perspective,” said Kennedy, who won the race, “he was one of those godfather-type figures in Massachusetts politics.”